FrightFest 2015: Critics’ roundtable post-mortem

From the crazy lady of the Blaine brothers’ Nina Forever (and the final girls of Final Girl and Last Girl Standing) to the British guignol of Bait, The Lesson and Steve Oram’s Aaaaaaaah! via endless fables of confinement and madness, this year’s London horror-film showcase had plenty to chew over – as Anton Bitel, Kim Newman and Virginie Selavy demonstrate.

Anton Bitel , Kim Newman , Virginie Sélavy

 

Timings

0m 55s Nina Forever, crazy ladies and final girls

4m 16s Sun Choke

9m 40s Final Girl, Last Girl Standing, Suspension, final girls and maternity

12m 42s Frankenstein

15m 27s Estranged

16m 47s Confinement: Shut In, The Diabolical, After Death and agoraphobia; In LimboCurve, The Sand, Inner Demon and physical traps; They Look Like People, Pod and emotional traps

19m 10s: Madness, mental illness and monsters

21m 25s Landmine Goes Click

25m 9s Bait, The Lesson, British social realism and the gruesome

 

Our critics’ top threes

Anton Bitel

1. Sun Choke

Sun Choke (2015)

Sun Choke (2015)

Ben Cresciman’s sun-dappled yet chilly Los Angeles psychodrama is a dissociative, claustrophobic and unnerving trip through birth and death, with only insanity in between.

2. Nina Forever

The Blaine brothers’ debut shows a love triangle between a trainee paramedic Holly, her new older boyfriend Ben and the dead ex he is still grieving – and who returns, bloody, broken and bitter, whenever Holly and Ben have sex. Yet this threesome of social realism, macabre surrealism and erotic frankness ends up being less about Ben haunted by his past than about Holly haunted by the future.

3. The Rotten Link

Valentín Javier Diment’s portrait of a secluded Argentinian village first shows the delicate chain of commercial and sexual bartering that enables the community to exist in such isolation, and then reveals the devastation caused when a link in that chain breaks, unleashing madness and murder upon the corrupted population. Structured as a chronicle of a death foretold, it’s the sort of allegorical horror that one could imagine Gabriel García Márquez crafting had he ever turned his talents to filmmaking.

 

Kim Newman

1. Frankenstein

Frankenstein (2015)

Frankenstein (2015)

A fresh, contemporary-yet-classical take on Mary Shelley’s novel (and James Whale’s films) that revisits a key gothic story – with Xavier Samuel as one of the cinema’s best Frankenstein Monsters. Read more at Kim Newman’s blog.

2. They Look Like People

How do you deal with a best friend who believes aliens are among us? Perry Blackshear’s study of paranoid delusion and male friendship is complex, creepy and moving. Read more at Kim Newman’s blog.

3. Night of the Living Deb

Single girl Deb (Maria Thayer) tries to find love and happiness and career fulfilment during a small-scale zombie apocalypse. Kyle Rankin’s comic horror is surprisingly sweet, yet also gruesome and funny. Read more at Kim Newman’s blog.

 

Virginie Selavy

1. Sun Choke

Ben Cresciman’s airy, elusive psychological thriller is a remarkably intuitive plunge into a female world of startling beauty and violence.

2. Nina Forever

Nina Forever (2015)

Nina Forever (2015)

Inventive editing and a fresh approach to both love triangles and tormenting ghosts made the Blaine brothers’ debut one of the best surprises of the festival.

3. Frankenstein

A poetic modern take on Mary Shelley’s monster from Candyman director Bernard Rose.

 

In the forthcoming November 2015 issue of Sight & Sound

Three’s a crowd

The dominant theme at this year’s FrightFest seemed to be the sense of being trapped, mentally, physically or, most often, both, reports Kim Newman.

Access the digital edition

Further reading

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